History to repeat itself for Nichols Canyon
Mullins horse can do his 2015 double again this year
Willie Mullins doesn't fail at many things. Getting more money out of Michael O'Leary for stable fees was one, but that hasn't seemed to have had that much of an impact on his ability to churn out winners. He has also failed to get Nichols Canyon up to three miles but that hasn't stopped the horse from winning Grade Ones.
Last season, Nichols Canyon started off in the Morgiana Hurdle as a prep run for Grade One races over a longer trip but what wasn't envisaged on that occasion was that he would actually go and beat Faugheen, thus keeping him at two miles for the season.
That yielded another Grade One victory over two miles when he won tomorrow's feature, the Ryanair Hurdle, at the expense of Identity Thief and the six-year-old will be favourite to retain his crown in the race.
With two Champion Hurdle winners residing in Willie Mullins' County Carlow hub of victors, it would be only natural to assume that Nichols Canyon's time to shine over a further trip would be this season, but when both Annie Power and Faugheen met with setbacks and were forced to miss the Morgiana, Nichols Canyon again stepped up to the mark and duly obliged.
Unfortunately, in a week when we've been treated to explosive performances by Thistlecrack, Altior and Douvan, we have to do without Annie Power and Faugheen, but Nichols Canyon will look to fill that void for the Mullins team again and is expected to hold off Petit Mouchoir.
The latter was the choice of Bryan Cooper in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle over Apple's Jade and the pair looked to be right in contention at the third last before falling, so he'll make a real good race of this, as should Jer's Girl, who can be expected to benefit from her seasonal debut. But it should be the Morigana and Ryanair double again for Nichols Canyon.
Alpha Des Obeaux had to settle for minor honours behind Thistlecrack at the Cheltenham Festival when he took him on in the World Hurdle, but there's no shame in that now and stepping up to three miles for the first time over fences can pay dividends for Mouse Morris's current stable star.
A season like last and a Grand National winning double will probably never be bettered by Morris, but there are some big races to be won with Alpha Des Obeaux and that can start in the Neville Hotels Novice Chase.
Coney Island, who had Alpha Des Obeaux behind him in the Drinmore Novice Chase, is the obvious danger to the selection and after his maiden win over fences, trainer Eddie Harty suggested a step up in trip wouldn't inconvenience so he has to warrant respect but Alpha Des Obeaux is still preferred.
Given the form of the Mullins team, a chance is taken that Battleford will put his disappointing Navan run behind him, while Noel Meade's Bel Ami De Sivola may prove to be still on the right side of the handicapper in the novice handicap hurdle.
12.20 I Knew Well
1.20 Let's Dance
1.55 Alpha Des Obeaux
2.30 Nichols Canyon
3.05 Bel Ami De Sivola
3.35 Quick Grabim